One of the most remarkable sessions held during the Vancouver Conference didn’t take place in the meeting rooms. There were no PowerPoint presentations or slide displays. No speaker stood at a lectern. Attendees sat on the floor in socks and sweatshirts.
    
This was a group of ASCFG members who had gotten together for beer and pizza in one member’s room the last night of the Conference. A few of them were old friends, some had never met. As they rehashed the meetings, the tours, what they’d learned, and what they already knew, it became clear that the range of growing experience and market expertise in the group was wide.
    
One member in particular was astonished at the ease with which the others talked about their marketing strategies. Their confidence in their product and their ability to sell it was clear. “But how do you do it?” he kept asking. “How do you find these customers and how do you keep them?”
    
Who hasn’t asked that? Who hasn’t been unsure that his or her flowers are what buyers are looking for, or is unfamiliar with local buyers, or can’t get a foot in the door?
    
Fortunately, this time the question had immediate answers. These ASCFG members, who grow 50 different kinds of flowers in seven states, were unanimous in their replies. And even better, they were so willing to share their good will they practically knocked each other over trying to answer.
    
“It’s attitude,” one said. “Your flowers are worth more than your competitors’ because they’re fresh, they haven’t been on a truck for five days.  They’re special, because no one else is growing what you’re growing.”
    
“Be practical,” said another. “If they don’t buy the first time, it’s not personal – go back a second, third and fourth time. Set your route so that you arrive at the same time on the same day.  Eventually they’ll be looking for you – and they need to be able to count on you.”
    
“Be consistent,” added a third. “The first thing buyers want to know is ‘Will you be here next year?’ Many florists have been disappointed by flaky growers.  Don’t be one.”
    
The topic turned to pricing. The group all got different prices for the same flowers, since they sold at farmers’ markets, to wholesalers and to florists, but all suggested pricing high.

“Determine pricing on like products from other sources, like California or Florida.  Add your own freight cost ($.50-1.00 per bunch).  Add $.50-1.00 because your product is fresh!  Local!  Special! Don’t sell too cheap and then be disappointed.  Price high and be surprised when they buy.”
    
The session went on for hours. It is because these types of conversations and this kind of learning can happen only in person. That’s why it’s important to attend conferences and participate. This is what an effective trade association is about. This is why members find a way to leave their farms and businesses for five days.
    
The idea that could make you stand up and exclaim “You changed my life!” could come from a speaker’s slide show, but it could also come from conversations on the tour bus, standing in the lunch line, or on the floor with beer and pizza.